An Afternoon With Feminist Legends

On Monday September 20, the Women’s Research & Resource Center at Spelman College presented the lecture series “Speaking for Ourselves: A Conversation With bell hooks and Gloria Steinem.” Gloria Steinem and  bell hooks (government name-Gloria Jean Watkins) are literary icons, known for their feminist perspectives that challenge patriarchal hierarchies (race, class, gender), amazing intellect and critical thinking. Dr. Beverly Guy Sheftall, a close friend and colleague of the two, facilitated the conversation held in the Cosby Auditorium to an over-capacity crowd. Gloria and bell possess extraordinarily impressive resumes boasting strides in activism, politics, American culture, philanthropy and civil rights, and their works (Google them!!!) continue to inspire students, scholars, and regular intelligent folk the like! The women are close friends in real life which led for a strikingly intimate, impressive and frank discussion on topics ranging from celibacy (both icons are), dealing with loss, domestic violence and self-esteem. Dr. Sheftall began with several questions then opened the floor to the audience.

Scholars & sisters: bell hooks & Dr. Sheftall

*Several KEY notes of wisdom were taken (I paraphrased a bit!):

Me & bell hooks!!!! #GEEKED

bell hooks-

-There is a great need for media images (magazines, advertisements) to reflect real and diverse Black women. “How many magazines speak to me? Truly? I’m not talking about Beyonce and her long blond weave…though the images may call out to me, they don’t speak to me!”

-Women must become more economically self-sufficient!!! LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS and plan, plan, plan for the future! Read finance books, examine your financial situation and take control! To authors and entrepreneurs your money should make money to ensure you are protected later in life (Amen sistah). “Being economically self-sufficient is one of my greatest accomplishments! I don’t have to work after 50- I choose to.”

-Philanthropy crucial, and can be done on ALL levels. Every day is an opportunity to help someone else or give back, no matter where you are in life or your current circumstance.

-Women, Black women especially, need to realize their worth (bell referenced the poem “She Does Not Know Her Beauty”).

-There is a deep disorder in patriarchal Christianity (commercial Christianity). Seek progressive Christianity that teaches LOVE as opposed to fear, or the will to harm or deny. Even the Dalai Lama, a great leader of color and world influencer, encourages spirituality over a particular religion.

-“I’m incredibly disciplined. I write. EVERY DAY. I wake, have morning meditations and reflections, then I write!” (*I hung my head in shame. One day…I’ll be great*)

Me & GLORIA!!!

Gloria Steinem-

-As the oldest feminist in the room, she has no shame in using profanity (my kind of woman!), bashing the restrictions and often silly politics of religion, and the controlling

-Realized she was a “feminist” in her early 30’s after an intense debate about abortion (she had one at 22). Other women coming forward to share their truths prompted her to do the same. “If so many women have had to suffer through an abortion and be challenged for their decisions, why is no one speaking about it?”

-The (continued & consistent) sexual abuse of women is the necessary element to complete formulas of genocide and oppression. “All designed to control women’s reproductive power and ultimately society.”

-Women need a circle of friends and support. Genuine trust in one another (to share the good, bad and ugly) will strengthen the bond of friendship over the years. “Anyone can support and defend when you are right-a real friend defends you even when you’re wrong!”

-It is very hard to match friendships (or any relationship) when one person has faulty self-esteem. The two must be equal, and one should know and love herself before she can support or uplift another. Practice great self-esteem so the attacks against other women, simply uncontrolled jealousy,

bell hooks & Dr. Sheftall among fans

-Everything we discuss, every power relationship is political! The government especially, should aim for circular relationships as opposed to uni-lateral. Be open to opinions from all sides and work to find solutions.

-All major “movements” are interconnected. Remember to search for the AND instead of the EITHER/OR. Learn to find and understand life’s “Ah-haa” moments.

Gloria Steinem

Scholarship, activism, community and change, the mission and works of the Women’s Center Endowment Initiative. Please continue to support! Thanks to Dr. Sheftall and the staff at the WRRC for hosting such an amazing event! It was truly an honor to be in the presence of two of my literary sheroes, and I gained so much invaluable knowledge just by listening. My soul was filled, nurtured and I left with renewed purpose and motivation. Thank you my sisters!! Shouts out to @redclayscholar and @Daniellelewis for attending & sending the Twitter reminder of this FAB event! #HBCU #AcademiaROCKS!!




About Dawnavette

A Modern Renaissance Woman passionate about writing, women's issues, race relations, pop culture and music.

Posted on September 21, 2010, in Commentary, Female Perspective and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Two of my sheroes! Oh how I wish I were living in Atlanta, I would have been all up and through that event. Both women left some great advice and I will incorporate it into my daily activities!

    Great coverage!

  2. I am very glad you were able to attend this forum @ my Alma Mater. Dr.Beverly Sheftall is an amazing woman and I was fortunate to have her as a professor while at Spelman College. We get together at least once a year as we all celebrate Mama Gee Gee’s Birthday, if not some other function.
    Keep working on your craft for it is a”GIFT”


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